Zexi Investment's Xu Xiang: The self-made man with the Midas touch

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2015, 12:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2015, 3:31am

High-flying investor Xu Xiang, now in detention on suspicion of insider trading, cut a legendary figure in investment.

The 37-year-old self-made billionaire, dubbed "China's Carl Icahn", was widely known for his swift and accurate short-term investment decisions that often led to high returns.

As the manager of hedge fund Zexi Investment - one of the most successful firms of its kind in the country - Xu generated 300 per cent gains for two of his funds this year, even as the mainland's stock market went into meltdown.

Born into a well-to-do family in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, Xu's interest in the stock market started in high school.

At 17, he skipped the university entrance exams and started investing in stocks, using tens of thousands of yuan from his parents as initial capital.

By the end of the 1990s, Xu was the most prominent hedge fund investor in Zhejiang.

In 2005, Xu moved to Shanghai, setting up Zexi Investment four years later with 30 million yuan (HK$36.6 million) in registered capital.

He now manages close to 20 billion yuan in assets and is widely regarded as the mainland's No1 hedge fund manager.

Xu's colleagues put his success down to his diligence.

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He arrived in office at 8.45am sharp every day and often went to bed at around 2am, according to Xinhua-affiliated Economic Information Daily. People close to Xu said he did not smoke, drink or play cards, and his only hobby was studying stocks.

"Xu Xiang is the most dedicated and industrious person I've ever met," Ye Zhan, Xu's former assistant, wrote in an article about what he learned from his time at Zexi.

China Business News quoted Xu as saying he based his investment decisions on researchers' reports and never visited the companies in question.

"The whole market knows how fierce Xu Xiang is in his operations, but fewer people know that he often makes split-second decisions that are sometimes the exact opposite [of an earlier thought]," Ye said.

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Investors close to Xu said he would buy a lot of stock in a company that a moment earlier appeared to be a runaway risk, or cash out of a firm that he had once considered a good performer, the China Business News report said.

This was the case when he bought into Chongqing Beer Group in 2012 after the company's stocks plunged over several straight days. Xu's bottom fishing turned out to be extremely successful and netted him huge returns.

Investors close to Xu said he had warned friends during a lunch that year not to buy shares in Chongqing Beer Group because of the company's "uncontrollable risks".

When his stocks made losses, he would either sell all the shares immediately or inject more into the company, betting on it making a comeback, China Business News reported.